Online education is as effective as face to face
(Image credit: ASU presentation)

The research highlighted below the statement "Online is as effective as face to face" was used in a presentation at the ASU Education Innovation Summit to justify students in a k to 12 setting taking online courses.

From the first meta-analysis written by the US Department of Education,

"The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction…"

Sounds promising, let’s read the rest of the abstract, shall we?

"…An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education)."

That sounds a lot like the authors of the meta-study specifically recommended against using this meta-analysis as support for online learning in a k to 12 setting. I wonder why the presenter used this study?

We cannot draw conclusions on the effectiveness of online learning (as opposed to blended learning – wherein a student learns from a mixture of online and classroom activities) for k to 12 students based on the effectiveness of online learning in a post-secondary setting.

  1. The motivations of k to 12 students and post-secondary students are different.
  2. Many post-secondary classrooms do not represent the most effective pedagogy, so it may be easier for online learning to be equivalent or superior.
  3. Access to resources necessary to be successful in an online setting (like a computer) are more prevalent in a post-secondary setting.